Friday, August 10, 2018
Standing Up to the Saudis
In January of 2016 I used this cartoon in a blog where I expressed strong concern about Canada's willingness to sell armoured personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had a miserable human rights record then, and in the year and a half since I wrote there is evidence that they have used these military vehicles against their own people. Even if they have employed them outside their borders the aggression against Yemen is cause for a sober second look at the strong-arm tactics of this regime.
We also know that Saudi Arabia has medieval laws restricting the rights and freedoms of women and only recently allowed women to drive. Many Western countries have mildly admonished the Saudis for their regressive polices and there have been sanctions against Sweden and Germany as a result. There has been nothing like the reaction to an mild tweet
by Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland asking for the "immediate release" of detained Saudi women's rights activists.
The response was ferocious and comprehensive. Trade deals have been terminated, fifteen to twenty thousand Saudi students in Canada have been ordered home, and 800 doctors-in-training have until the end of the month to leave our country. It is a diplomatic temper tantrum which has caught everyone off guard.
Should Canada have "poked the bear," especially on social media? Freeland might have been more careful about the medium but as a person of conscience and a Christian I'm grateful that the federal government has sent an important message by standing up for women who have been imprisoned for seeking equality.
Yesterday there was news that a man from Myanmar was executed in Saudi Arabia, then symbolically crucified. It was a barbaric form of capital punishment 2000 years ago and still is today. We need to ask why Western countries are so enamoured of Saudi wealth when this brutality and repression has gone on for so long. Neither the United States nor Great Britain had the moral fortitude to come to Canada's support, but we should all contact Foreign Affairs and offer ours. Chrystia.Freeland@parl.gc.ca
Bob Rae had some worthwhile thoughts on what has unfolded in yesterday's Toronto Star.